I have always wondered what the word client meant.
For some, a client is an organization. For others, it is just the place they go to work every day. For some, it is the entity that generates revenue, while for others it is a business partner that you chose to work with for mutual benefit.
For me, it is none of the above.
The client is the people.
How do you define client?
When I say “client,” it is all the individuals that belong to the organization that requested our services and that we are partnering with, who in some way determine the success or failure of our project. So the client can be a lot of different people, all with different ideas, perspectives, experiences, and knowledge.
As a consultant, knowing your client is critical when it comes to providing valuable services. But knowing your client is complicated—you need to understand the various motivations, reservations, and apprehensions of all the different people who make up the client. It is about hearing and valuing their opinions, ideas, and concerns. And recognizing and dealing with potential differences and conflicts.
That can sound overwhelming, but the good news is that these different perspectives have the same goal: adding value to their organization.
What differences do you recognize in your client?
Knowing your client is about understanding the differences between each individual’s stance on a topic. Just because the people you work with work for the same organization doesn’t mean they agree.
You need to have clarity on each individual client’s position, so as a consultant you can present your ideas and intent to the right people in the right context.
What is your client knowledgeable and ignorant about?
Knowing your client is about appreciating their knowledge and expertise while also respecting they may not have much experience in an area where you have been hired to help. As a consultant, it is important to leverage the wealth of knowledge that is offered by the client while at the same time educating them in your focus area.
That’s one of the reasons why clients hire consultants. But we must never lose sight of the fact that the client also has significant value and expertise to contribute. Leveraging that expertise is key to your success.
How do you embrace negativity?
Knowing your client is about accepting the fact that there are people who will love what you bring to the table while others will be skeptical. You’ll need to be able to work with both.
Recognizing skeptical clients is an opportunity.
As a consultant, we need to have an open mind and an open heart, we need to be professional regardless of how others view us. As much as we enjoy the recognition and appreciation, we will face negativity and resistance and need to figure out how to use that energy in a positive way. This client may have had a negative experience with another consultant. They could be going through a difficult personal or professional situation. The truth is, we may never know.
It is not our job to change people. However, it is our job to treat everyone as our friend and a partner.